Tag Archives: Literary Magazines

Submissions

“If the Muses could lobby for their interest, all biographical research into the lives of artists would probably be prohibited by law, and historians of the individual would have to confine themselves to those who act but do not make—generals, criminals, eccentrics, courtesans and the like, about whom information is not only more interesting but less misleading. Good artists—the artist manqué is another matter—never make satisfactory heroes for novelists because their life stories, even when interesting for themselves, are peripheral and less significant than their productions.”

                                                                              –W. H. Auden

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“It did nothing for me.”

“I do not accept this excited rhetoric about what texts ‘actually do,’ which is replacing the older, soberer emphasis on what they say. I regard the methodology of ‘stop and go’ as a parody of genuine scientific investigation of the workings of the human brain, providing a spurious justification for what the critic himself arbitrarily chooses to ‘do’ to, and with, the text. A better way, to my mind, of slowing down the reading process and awakening attention to the nuances of language in the hands of great masters is to read aloud, to oneself, to one’s friends, or in a group, or to listen to a good reader.”

                                                                                            –Helen Gardner

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Testing

“…for just as the universal family of gifted writers transcends national barriers, so is the gifted reader a universal figure, not subject to spatial or temporal laws. It is he—the good, the excellent reader—who has saved the artist again and again from being destroyed by emperors, dictators, priests, puritans, philistines, political moralists, policemen, postmasters, and prigs. Let me define this admirable reader. He does not belong to any specific nation or class. No director of conscience and no book club can manage his soul. His approach to a work of fiction is not governed by those juvenile emotions that make the mediocre reader identify himself with this or that character and ‘skip descriptions.’ The good, the admirable reader identifies himself not with the boy or the girl in the book, but with the mind that conceived and composed that book. The admirable reader does not seek information about Russia in a Russian novel, for he knows that the Russia of Tolstoy or Chekhov is not the average Russia of history but a specific world imagined and created by individual genius. The admirable reader is not concerned with general ideas: he is interested in the particular vision. He likes the novel not because it helps him to get along with the group (to use a diabolical progressive-school cliché); he likes the novel because he imbibes and understands every detail of the text, enjoys what the author meant to be enjoyed, beams inwardly and all over, is thrilled by the magic imageries of the master-forger, the fancy-forger, the conjuror, the artist. Indeed, of all the characters that a great artist creates, his readers are the best.”

                                                                                        –Vladimir Nabokov

“If you want to create life, the one way not to set about it is by explanation.”

                                  –Henry Green

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Here do we go from where?

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when a cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainment, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

                                                                                           –Neil Postman

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“Society is a very culpable entity, and has to answer for the manufacture of many unwholesome commodities, from bad pickles to bad poetry.”

                                                                                    –George Eliot

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Confessional

I don’t write to be liked, I don’t write for acceptance. Countering a steady diet of rejection, I remind myself of this:

“It is not surprising therefore that the most representative literature of our times is light, easy literature, which, without any sense of shame, sets out to be—as its primary and almost exclusive objective—entertaining. But let’s be clear: I am not in any way condemning the authors of this entertainment literature because, notwithstanding the levity of their texts, they include some really talented writers. If today it is rare to see literary adventures as daring as those of Joyce, Woolf, Rilke or Borges, it is not just down to the writers. For the culture in which we live does not favour, but rather discourages, the indefatigable efforts that produce works that require of the readers an intellectual concentration almost as great as that of their writers. Today’s readers require easy books that entertain them and this demand creates a pressure that becomes a powerful incentive to writers.”

This, from Mario Vargas Llosa’s Notes on the Death of Culture, a highly sobering, indispensable discourse on the current state of arts and letters.

Though why not aim high? And especially having read Joyce, Woolf, Rilke, Borges—why not aspire to join their ranks? To match what you admire?

So much talent today, effectively homogeneous: “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

Believe. Go alone. They’re hardly critics, if all they express is opinion. A critical response must, at the least, situate the work in question. Reviewers—but who cares, except the vastly impressionable consumer?

Last word, Truman Capote: “…I’ll give you fifty dollars if you produced a writer who can honestly say he was ever helped by the prissy carpings and condescensions of reviewers.”

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No Comment

“I don’t believe that a reviewer or a critic can really criticize well unless he can praise well. I always liked that about Randall Jarrell. He praised well. James Agee praises well. You’ve got to be able to like the right things to be enabled to dislike the wrong things.”

                                                                                 –James Dickey

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Liberty/License

“…Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.

Let me preach again for one moment: I mean that what you have felt and thought will by itself invent a new style so that when people talk about style they are always a little astonished at the newness of it, because they think that is only style that they are talking about, when what they are talking about is the attempt to express a new idea with such force that it will have the originality of the thought. It is an awfully lonesome business….

Nothing any good isn’t hard….”

                                                                          –F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Go Set a Poet

“The first discipline is the realization that there is a discipline—that all art begins and ends with discipline, that any art is first and foremost a craft. We have gone far enough on the road to self-indulgence now to know that. The man who announces to the world that he is going to ‘do his thing’ is like the amateur on the high-diving platform who flings himself into the void shouting at the judges that he is going to do whatever comes naturally. He will land on his ass. Naturally. You’d think, to listen to the loudspeakers that surround us, that no man had ever tried to ‘do his thing’ before. Every poet worth reading has, but those really worth reading have understood that to do your thing you have to learn first what your thing is and second how to go about doing it. The first is learned by the difficult labor of living, the second by the endless discipline of writing and rewriting and rerewriting. There are no shortcuts. Young writers a while back, misreading Bill Williams, decided to ignore the fact that poems are made of words as sounds as well as of words as signs—decided not to learn the art of words as sounds, not to be bothered with it. They were not interested in poems. They were interested in doing their thing. They did—and that was that.”

                                                            –Archibald MacLeish

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Alignment

“I said that a writer was a man who had antennae; if he really knew what he was, he would be very humble. He would recognize himself as a man who was possessed of a certain faculty which he was destined to use for the service of others. He has nothing to be proud of, his name means nothing, his ego is nil, he’s only an instrument in a long procession.”

                                                                                           –Henry Miller

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